Infinite Grace Devotional: Losing it!

Infinite Grace Devotional: Losing it!

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:25-26

Americans hate to lose. You aren’t looked well upon and you aren’t held in high esteem for being the “loser”, and yet losing is exactly what we are called to as Christians. To truly gain and profit in this life we find it in the losing. Losing our life for Christ’s sake. In losing our dreams, plans, and ideals we are freed up to gain the wisdom, maturity and beautiful story God has written out for us.

This isn’t the end all, may we purpose to be eternally minded and to surrender and submit our ways to God seeking Him first in all things and loving our neighbors as ourself. What God has in store for us is FAR greater than any type of “winning” and admiration we can gain in this life. It’s so counter cultural but it’s exactly the way of our God.  Remember the love the Father has for us?  That He would lose His life for us while we were yet sinners, enemies even.

What will it look like today friend?  Losing your quiet lunch hour to engage and love on another?  Is it in surrendering your ideals of what you want this “life” to look like and embrace the story God has written for you? Mama, is it in saying your best “yes” and serving your children and Husband?  His ways seem to always be opposite of the way we think things should be.  Do not be fooled into thinking it’s all in the winning.  True eternal profit and gain is in the little losing of our selves day in and day out as we gain more of Him.

#forChristssake #eternallyminded #thisworldisnotourhome

 

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Infinite Grace Devotional: Who Fights For You?

Infinite Grace Devotional: Who Fights For You?

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

 

The kids and I had a week off from homeschooling a few weeks back. I’m learning how important it is to schedule in rest to avoid burnout and not just stop all together. So, the kids and I were all working on different projects. I was working on food prep because you know, baby weight. The oldest four were planning and scheming a way to build the biggest fort ever!  After tons of chopping and dicing, I went into their room to find a fort roof cascading down one side of the bunk bed and all four of the kids packed in like sardines looking at books and giggling. I slipped right in and started asking them what a fort was for? Payton, my nine year old piped up and said “It’s something to hide in and protects us from the enemy”.  It immediately reminded me of the old hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

David writes here in Psalm 18 that our God is a fortress. A fort is a strong place that provides protection, where a fortress is a place of strength. Think about that for a minute. Fort: Strong place. Fortress: Place of strength. We can run and hide inside a fort but it will not fight back for us. A fortress is an intricate defense. It’s where the strength is, where the power is. When it says here that God is our fortress, deliverer, God, refuge, shield, salvation and stronghold, He not only provides a place of protection but He IS the source of power and who fights on our behalf.

Moses comforted the Israelites as they feared the Egyptians were after them.  Moses told them in Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” That very same God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites is the very same God who provides a safe place and fights for you. I’m not sure what battle you are facing today friend, but be faithful in what you know to do and know that our God goes before you!  May you find rest in the solid rock of our salvation.  A Mighty Fortress and Deliverer is our God!

Love, Janell

When You Don’t Feel Jolly And Bright At Christmas

When You Don’t Feel Jolly And Bright At Christmas

This Holiday season has been packed full of hard and unexpected things, and though I’ve tried to be super upbeat and jolly, there are days that my heart breaks and has me feeling lonely. I’ve been in a funk and though I have known the Lord for years and have many things to be thankful for, we don’t always know how we will actually respond in specific circumstances until we are right in the middle of them. It’s this battle and spiritual warfare of the flesh and the spirit and in God’s goodness He reveals to us areas of our doubt or unbelief. It’s humbling to say the least.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)

As I read these scriptures today, I noticed that it said, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” If you know God, then the Spirit that is in you is the Holy Spirit, and according to the scriptures, the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. Read that last sentence over one more time slowly…If you know God, then the Spirit that is in you is the Holy Spirit, and according to the scriptures, the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. So the very Holy Spirit that knows our Creator God and His thoughts intimately is the VERY same Holy Spirit that searches and knows our thoughts! The thoughts that we wouldn’t breath to another soul. The thoughts of insecurities, doubt, hurt, longing, and disappointment. The Holy Spirit connects and bridges the deep things of God and our human hearts.

My heart leapt for joy as God reminded me that He loves me SO much, enough to search me and know me. So much in fact that He not only gave His son, but then gave His Spirit to dwell in us. We are NEVER alone. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, the Image of God was with them as they chose truth and were tossed into the fiery furnace.

Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:21-25)

The Holy Spirit is with us through every trial, every fire, ever uncertainty we walk through this side of heaven. Notice that God did not provide an additional friend to stick in there with them, their Mom or Dad didn’t come to the rescue, and their Pastor wasn’t there for “moral” support. It was our God all Mighty who stood with them.

If you find yourself in the midst of the fire this Christmas season and are tempted to despair and believe you are all alone in this, be encouraged. We are not alone as we have been given the Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Nothing is wasted as He is faithful to complete the work He has started with all who believe. No matter how long we have known God or what we continue to face, we will always need God to fight for us. May we come to a place where we can be strong and courageous as we walk through trials, all because we are absolutely sure of the One dwelling inside of us, and may we fight the temptation to dwell on how we feel, but be rooted in what we know.

Same Power

I can walk
Down this dark and painful road
I can face
Every fear of the unknown
I can hear
All God’s children singing out
We will not be overtaken
We will not be overcome

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in us
He lives in us, lives in us

We have hope
That His promises are true
In His strength
There is nothing we can’t do
Yes, we know
There are greater things in store
We will not be overtaken
We will not be overcome

Greater is He that is living in me
He’s conquered our enemy
No power of darkness
No weapon prevails
We stand here in victory

“Same Power” by: Jeremy Camp

Love, Janell

When Your Friendship Becomes Your Idol

When Your Friendship Becomes Your Idol

Just about every two to four years our family would be stationed at a new Air Force Base or location. We moved a LOT growing up. And as I started a new school or church, it became easier and easier to meet and greet new faces. Ask the same questions and make new friends. God really used these experiences to make me the friendly outgoing person that I am. This was the time before Facebook, so staying connected over the years on social media wasn’t even a thought. The new friends faded away after yet another move and I felt like I was always starting over. Making a new set of friends once again. I longed for the fairytale best friendship. You know the one? Started grade school together, knew each other forever, did everything together, finished each others sentences. A bestie.

God graciously gave me a set amount of years in one place during my Jr. High-High school years. These friends become the ones I had always dreamed of. Making memories, laughing, dating, & dreaming together. Most of these friends poured over into my twenties. As we went to college, married and had children of our own, our dynamics changed yet we clung to what we knew. Trying to hang onto the old while God was changing us into something beautiful and new. Then one year I lost my dearest and very best friend of fourteen years. My heart broke inside of me and I couldn’t understand how God would take away one of my most cherished friendships. She was closer than a sister to me. We had been through everything together.

In God’s goodness and mercy, He removed something from me that I would have never remove myself. And in doing that, He showed me truly where I had been holding that relationship. I hadn’t realized it until it was removed that I had cherished that one relationship more than I cherished my relationship with God. That was the root reason why I was so upset and heartbroken that our friendship was gone. I had put expectations on this relationship that no one but Jesus could fulfill. Instead of running to God, I would pick up the phone and run to my friend. Instead of quieting my spirit and intentionally listening for God’s leading, direction or seeking His word, I would ask my friend what she thought. She wasn’t meant to carry the load that was only meant for God to carry.

God was so faithful to do an overhaul in my heart. To be honest, it took a couple of years. I must be a slow learner. I had unhealthy ideals of what a godly relationship looked like. I expected my friend to be perfect. To not let me down. To always be there for me. To help me in a time of need. Do you see the theme here? Me. Me. Me. Guess what ladies? None of our friends will ever love us perfectly. Not even the one dearest friend you have right now. No relationship is exempt from the repercussions of our sin nature, and no relationship was meant to bring you ultimate joy and fulfillment aside from Christ. We are a broken people in a broken world. I guaranteed I will disappoint you, and that you will disappoint me. But if we both have Jesus, then we already have ALL that we need.

Now we know that God is FOR relationships! He has created us in this manner and this is a beautiful blessing that we can enjoy this side of heaven, as we keep it in proper perspective. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

So how then do we love perfectly imperfect and keep our relationships in proper order? Matthew 6:33-34b says “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Are we seeking our God first and being eternally minded with these relationships here on earth? Paul also wrote, ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

I literally laughed out loud when I read that we are to bear with one another as fellow believers. How many times do we say “just bear with me here”!? We know that we are still learning and growing and we so desperately desire that others would bear with us as we learn and grow. But are we willing to extend the same grace? Are we willing to bear with them when they are unbearable? Are we forgiving like Christ who has forgiven us? Are we loving unconditionally and holding these things loosely as we rest in our King?

That desire to be fully known and fully loved can ONLY be fulfilled through our God. He DID love us perfectly. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He loved us unto death. He gave His life for us so that we might live! We can live confidently and take the risk to love unconditionally because of the great love that was given to us. We can boldly love with compassionate hearts, with kindness, with meekness, and patience because He is in us and is changing us from one degree of glory to the next. As we find our ultimate joy and fulfillment in our God and find Him as our very BEST friend, it frees us up from expectations, requirements, or demands that we might otherwise put on others.

I am happy to say that God in His mercy and grace has restored this old friendship of mine after years of heart work. Though it doesn’t look like it once did, He did a mighty work in the both of us that I don’t think would have otherwise happened. He gave me these verses in Isaiah as I had been tempted to long for the old times to remind me of where we are headed. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV) He has been faithful to make a new way in this friendship. A healthier and more lovely way as we both seek Him first. He has also been faithful to equip me with tools for healthier relationships now and in the future. I wouldn’t trade any of the heartache or tears for what I’ve learned as He made me refocused, solely dependent on Him as he redirected my wayward heart.

These relationship idols can so easily happen in a friendship, in a marriage, in relationship with our children, etc. as we look for fulfillment and purpose in these gifts instead of looking for fulfillment in the Gift Giver. What expectations have you put on the relationships in your life? Do you have a relationship that may need to be rechecked? Have you asked God to show you where you hold this relationship in light of your relationship with Him? Have you possibly held this relationship in an unhealthy manner with unhealthy demands? May you truly find your ultimate joy and fulfillment in our loving Lord and be free to love others in a healthy way because of the great love He has for us.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;

my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:5-11)

Just let it alone

Just let it alone

Today Payton was picking a scab on his knee (ew, gross…I know!!). I told him that he had to stop or his wound wouldn’t heal properly and would scar terribly. Just let it alone son!
Then God totally stirred my heart and asked me why I kept going back, re-opening a wound and picking the “scab” that was left on my heart? He said, “daughter, I’ve got this. Just let it alone!”.

So easily we want to go back to that wound. That thing or that person that left its mark and just pick at it. Go over every detail & replay how we got the injury and pick at the very thing God is working to heal. Friend, He’s got this, just let it alone….

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. – Jeremiah 17:14

Enough

Enough

I was thinking this week about how we tend to disappoint one another in our relationships & friendships.  We try to give each other our very best and still fall short.  It’s still never enough.  We are never enough for one another.  I was tempted to despair.

But then God was so gracious to remind me that we will never be enough for one another because that is only for Him to fulfill perfectly!  What a gift!  A pure never ending, never giving up, unconditional love from the one who created us.  The perfect Husband, the perfect Bestie, the perfect Sibling & the perfect Father. 

It’s exciting to know we don’t have to withdraw or avoid relationships because they are broken, but we are free to just love (free of strings or expectations) because we were first loved that way by the one who is perfect!  Such great news! 

May we continue to love one another with our faulty imperfect love & may all our short comings continue to point one another back to the ONLY one who can love us enough & love us perfectly…the great I Am ❤️

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1a

Love Perfected

Love Perfected

I grew up in the air force and attended public school most of my life. I also grew up in church. So my experience and time with non-believers were more often than not. In the church I grew up in, “good works” was the standard and supposedly was a reflection of the heart. Good works meant that you were a good Christian and you were close to God. If the outside looked right, then the inside must be right…with God. It was encouraged to serve, serve, serve the church and save, save, save the lost. It was known that if you were a fully surrendered young person that you would go to Bible college right out of high school. I rebelled (hehe) and worked my first year out of high school to earn money for college. In fall of 2001 I was headed to Jacksonville, FL to attend Bible school. I had such great expectations of what that would actually look like. I had gone to school for years with the lost. To be able to be surrounded by other brothers and sisters in Christ would be surreal. We would worship, serve and pray together as we dug deeper into God’s word and got to know our King together…right!?

You can imagine my SHOCK to find that I was in school and in a dorm room with all these other sinners. People who claimed Christ (and some who didn’t at all) but were, lying, hurting, stealing and tearing one another down right in my own personal space. I expected that from non-believers, but from Christians!? That was the first time I had ever realized how much easier it seemed to love a non-believer than to love the brethren, and how we are still a broken people slowly being changed into the image of our Savior. I am SO thankful that we Christians aren’t the standard for holiness, only God is! Though I had grown up in church for years, I didn’t have much scripture knowledge, just law knowledge, or knowledge of the “rules”. Why is it that we are surprised when believers sin? Well, come to find out Paul addresses unity in the church body in many of his letters in the New Testament. How are we to coexist with other sinners saved by grace & love one another well?

Let’s look at what Paul writes to the church in Ephesus: Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I laughed when I read that we were to bear with one another, clearly we must not be the easiest people at times. Bear, endure, and be long suffering with one another in love, that we maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This reconciliation and love acts as a BOND to unite the believers together in Christ. The BOND of peace.

Let’s also look at what Paul wrote to the church of Colossae in Colossians 3:8-11 in these you too once walked, when you were living in them. (Before we were believers) But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Ahhh the law….the list, the formula. So much familiarity and false security as we are tempted to achieve these good things alone. But as I read these, I instantly felt defeated because I KNOW I can’t love perfectly like we are called to. I am (and have always been) just like my other Bible college roommates, broken and in need of rescuing from myself as well. Though I am redeemed in Christ, I will fall short, I will disappoint, I will mess up, and I won’t live up to the expectations of others. Ever. And If I can’t achieve these perfectly, then that means I’m sure others can’t as well.

So how in the world can we display these virtues toward one another and put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony as verse 14 says?

We can’t forget (Ephesians 1:7-10) IN HIM (In Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his GRACE, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Oh the riches of His grace that He lavishes upon us. We have redemption through His blood and He is faithful to give us the wisdom, the insight and means to accomplish His purposes as we faithfully pursue Him. As we are intentional in beholding our King, and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts like Col. 3:15 says, He WILL renew us in knowledge after the image of Himself. It is His word and the work of the Spirit in us that changes us and gives us any ability to love well at all. We will be renewed in knowledge as we become familiar with His word and keep our eyes solely on Him.

Because of our sin nature, we aren’t naturally focused on others wellbeing so much as our own, and we don’t just naturally become holy because we decided to. We can’t do any good thing aside from Christ. I love how D.A. Carson explains it…

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace driven effort people do not grow toward godliness, prayer and obedience, to the scripture, faith and delight in the Lord. Instead we drift toward compromise and call it tolerance. We drift toward disobedience and call it freedom. We drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation. We slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking that we have escaped legalism. We slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves that we have been liberated. –D.A. Carson

The ONLY way we can possibly love well is by a grace driven effort as D.A. Carson explained. It isn’t by trying to obey the law alone in our best efforts, because we will quickly fail. And it isn’t by solely resting on grace without any effort, and use it as an excuse to not love others as we are called to because it’s covered. It is only by the grace of God that we would show any of these virtues toward one another because though we are saved by amazing grace, we are still broken here on this earth and God is faithfully changing and renewing us bit by bit. We are called as believers to love each other this way but we won’t live it out perfectly, because there was only one person who could live this out perfectly. It was Jesus, and He lived it unto death. For us.

How freeing to break the bondage of expectations with one another and KNOW that we all will fail each other, we all will disappoint at some time or another, and we all as believers are on this journey of sanctification. May we be gracious with one another as we are all growing and are in different parts of our life story.

Charles Spurgeon once said “He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.”

We could try and muster up enough willpower and determination to just do it, and love each other well with all our best effort. Or we could by grace focus on beholding our King, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, with faith that He will continue to do a good work and that all of these things will be added unto us for our good and for His glory. One way only leads to complete exhaustion and failure, while the other leads to perfect peace in Christ.

I am soooo thankful that God took me, this legalistic Pharisaical “good” girl and showed her, her own pride and wretched heart and is faithfully transforming her into a “grace” girl. He faithfully continues to show me that only He can be the perfect standard for us, and that He is happy to use the weak and broken. Even a Bible School drop out for His honor and glory.

Colossians 3:15-17 (sisters) and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I love the song by: For King and Country-Fix My Eyes. It is a perfect prayer for the body and for us sisters…

Love like I’m not scared

Give when it’s not fair

Live life for another

Take time for a brother (or sister)

Fight for the weak ones

Speak out for freedom

Find faith in the battle

Stand tall but above it all

Fix my eyes on You, On You

May we fix our eyes on Christ and love with a radical love like we have been loved and may we boldly and confidently love one another imperfectly, laced with grace as He is faithful to perfect us.